Derrick Rose is without question a premiere NBA player. He can be a dynamic scorer. He can energize a team. He has proven he can lead a team to the best regular-season record in the NBA. But can he lead the Chicago Bulls to an NBA title?
That is the question the Chicago Bulls need to ask themselves.
A primary concern the Bulls face is the long-term health of Rose. When healthy, the Bulls are an elite team, but keeping Rose on the court might become problematic. A torn ACL is a very serious injury to overcome, especially for a player such as Rose, who relies on quick cuts and explosiveness to be effective.
Furthermore, Rose's size and stature are not ideal for his style of play. He is a slasher who spends considerable time in the paint. He draws a lot of physical contact putting himself in further jeopardy for future injuries.
The Bulls front office has to recognize that there is considerable risk in building a team around Rose, as there is no certainty he will be able to remain healthy on a continuous basis. Going back in Bulls lore, it was easy to build pieces around Michael Jordan because, aside from one early injury, he was always on the court. His style of play wasn't as much of a concern for long term injury prospects.
The decision making in roster management with Rose is far more difficult, and the players they draft and sign have to fit in with their centerpiece. As an example, the Carlos Boozer contract made sense when you have him as a complementary player to Rose. Without Rose, however, the Boozer contract weighs down the team, as he is not a consistent go-to player who can lead a team. All that Boozer money would be far better spent in other areas.
The Bulls have two major questions to ask themselves. The first is: Can Derrick Rose stay healthy enough to keep the Bulls in the title hunt for the next ten years? If they don't believe that can happen, they need to make a move sooner rather than later to exploit the huge market value that Rose possesses. There are a number of teams that would jump at the possibility of acquiring Rose. There would be the possibility of quickly re-tooling the team through draft picks and young players with high ceilings.
However, if the Bulls believe Rose can stay healthy, that brings us to our second question: Are the Bulls good enough to win NBA championships with Rose as the centerpiece?
Chicago Bulls fans will remember the Cleveland Cavaliers teams in the Jordan era. Yes, those Brad Daugherty, Craig Ehlo and Mark Price-era Cavs. They were always a good team, always a thorn in the side of the Bulls and never quite good enough to upend Chicago.
Could that be this version of the Bulls as they try to chase down the Miami Heat over the next few years?
It is a distinct possibility, especially if you take into consideration that Rose might not ever regain the speed, agility, and quickness he possessed before he tore his ACL.
It has to be a concern for Chicago. There is a very sketchy history of NBA teams that have been successful with a score-first point guard as their primary player. How many NBA titles did Allen Iverson win during his career?
The Bulls could theoretically spend the next five years trying to build pieces around Rose, and it may never be enough to push them past the Heat in the East and the Thunder in the West—and that's not to mention other teams that will obviously find successful core players and challenge a Rose-led Bulls team.
When Rose returns, it will be very interesting how the Bulls finish the season. They are a decent team without him. Maybe even a good team. They are certainly a playoff team. However, they are not an NBA championship team without Derrick Rose.
Are they a championship NBA team with him?